A Song for Connected Educators: Bend in the Road

http://centerforcreativity.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Connected_Educator_Month.png

I had this idea to try to write a song for Connected Educator Month. I’m not sure it came out the way I wanted it to, capturing the spirit of helping to convince folks to move out of their comfort zones a bit. But, here it is anyway as a demo.

Take a listen:

 

 

A Bend in the Side of the Road
(dedicated to all the Connected Educators out there)
By Kevin Hodgson

We can take these four walls
and use them as protection
Or we can plug ourselves right into the world
and forge some connections

‘Cause everywhere I look
There’s someone there to share an idea
to help you grow
Yes, my friend, this ain’t the end
It’s a bend in the side of the road

You can have your self-doubt
Or maybe it’s reflection
Sometimes you take yourself right out of your zone
and forge a new connection

And everywhere you turn
well, there’s something to be learned -
Something that you didn’t know -
Yes, my friend, this ain’t the end
It’s a bend in the side of the road

Peace (and get connected),
Kevin

App Review: Cool Finger Faces

Fingers

Why would you use Cool Finger Faces? Oh, who knows. But it’s fun. I used the free version, so the tools were limited. Essentially, you take a photo of your finger(s) and then layer in faces. I added text after I uploaded the image to Flickr. But the app upgrade allows you to do that. I just couldn’t justify the $1.99, you know?

Peace (in the finger — not that finger!),
Kevin

Having Fun and Making Fun of Connected Educators Month

This will be no surprise to those who read me here, but I was making some webcomics as part of my thinking around Connected Educator Month. The third one dipped into my cynical side as I was scrolling through some of the “Partners” with the federal folks on CE13, and mulling over the times of so many events. (And I got some pushback from the CE folks on Twitter when I shared that one, too, as they explained the difficulties of logistics for scheduling events. They noted that many teachers watch recordings of presentations later. I countered that strong connections come from participating in live events, in the moment, not from watching a recorded webinar where you are a passive viewer. But I do understand the difficulty that they face in scheduling on such a large scale.) I am actually partial to the second comic, with the fish, for some reason. Maybe it is because I am part of a School …

CE13 Comic1

CE13 Comic2

CE13 Comic3

CE13 Comic4

CE13 Comic5
 

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

 

I Don’t Know What the Fox Says


Maybe this is your story, too.

The other day, one of my sixth graders came into school and said, “We have to show this video to the class.” Now, my policy is that I am open to suggestions for videos, but I need time to check it out and make sure it is appropriate. I don’t ever just cold-show a video. She insisted this video about the fox was hilarious. I had no idea what she was talking about and then, promptly forgot about it. She never followed up with me again (she probably thought I had nixed it, not forgotten it).

Then the other day, we were on our whitewater rafting field trip, waiting on the bus, and one of the guides stood up and asked the bus of students, “What does the fox say?” and the kids all start singing, ding ding ding. I had no idea what was going on but I had a inkling yet another viral pop cultural train had pulled into the station and left before I even knew it was there.

And I have three kids at home, too. You’d think I would have known about the video “What the Fox Says” by the band Ylvis. I see the video has 116 million views. Yes, 116 MILLION.

But somehow, consistently, I find myself weeks behind the loop around viral pop culture. It may be due to my refusal to join Facebook. It may be I have my teacher head in the sand. But it is an odd, disjointed feeling to sit on a bus with kids you know and nurture each day, and feel completely left out of the picture of what is holding their interest at any given moment. It made me feel old. And it made me realize just how fast and furious pop culture is these days, and how surprising the memes and viral videos can be, taking root quickly and fading fast.

And it once again reminded me that we need to value the digital lives of our kids outside of school. How to do that, in a meaningful way, is what is still difficult to navigate. Of course, once your teacher thinks something is cool, that means it is no longer cool. Such is the dichotomy of being the adult in a land of connected kids.
:)

Peace (ding ding),
Kevin

Of Big Nose Bears, Colorful Nodes and Authentically Inauthentic Radio

da Bear for the Daily Create
This week, at DS106 Headless Course, I’ve been a little less active publicly and more active behind the scenes. Let me explain. I feel like I let more Daily Creates float by this week, given a hectic week at school and life. Now that the Daily Create idea is part of my daily cycle, not doing them feels odd, as if something interesting is missing from my day.

Yet, life goes on …

As you can see from above, I did have some fun with the prompt the other day around creating an existential moose or bear. I used an online drawing site called PicassoHead. I think the nose is really a head. But I loved the enlarged nose. Don’t you? I made the nose large but then everything else really small, thinking of size as a design tool. The result is still a bear but one who needs a tissue or something.

Below is yesterday’s Daily Create, in which we were asked to visualize the Internet. I rushed this one, but perhaps it is because Connected Educator Month is underway that I thought of the various nodes of people and networks that connect. Unfortunately, th threads between the nodes are invisible (use your imagination!) because I ran out of time. Still, the last minute texts say a lot about how I conceive the dispersion of our ideas across various communities and networks. I just don’t know if the Internet is as colorful as mine, nor as circular.

Internet Nodes and Us

There was a neat writing prompt, too, the other day, in which we were told to write a story with narrative gaps in it. It was a twist on the old “dark and stormy night” idea. That act of leaving space in the story was pretty interesting. You had to design flagpoles of ideas, and even I don’t know what happened in the middle of this story, but I am curious.

It began as a bright and sunny day

… to which she replied, “I’m going. Are you coming with me?” Her words made me think about the last time she had asked that question ….

Later, I wondered where everyone had gone.

.. and yet, the night came on strong, dark and stormy and full of the kinds of twists and turns you expect out of a dime store pulp novel.

Finally, the behind-the-scenes work has been around our collaborative radio show project underway. I am part of The Merry Hacksters team, creating a program about hacking, remixing and digital literacies. We’re online partners, which both makes it easy and difficult to collaborate. I finished up a piece with two friends from the Mozilla Foundation this week and then worked to create a fake commercial for the program about a device that … well, I don’t want to say yet. I had more fun with the fake commercial than I should admit.

Here is the disclosure at the end of the commercial, in which I speeded up my voice to make it sound “authentically inauthentic”:

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

 

 

Talking Back to the Book: Invent to Learn

 

3d-invent-to-learn hodgson

Over at MiddleWeb, I recently reviewed Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager and found it be such a great resource for wrapping one’s head around where to begin with the move to get kids making things again in a learning environment. (See my review).

But seeing how there will be a book club community around Invent to Learn for Connected Educators Month, I wanted to share out some passages, lines and quotes from the book that really stood out for me as I was reading it. I hope to find time to participate in the book club. We’ll see.

“The past few decades have been a dark time in many schools. Emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, teaching to the test, de-professionalizing teachers, and depending on data rather than teacher expertise has created classrooms that are increasingly devoid of play, rich materials and the time to do projects.” – p. 1

My Response: Yep. And this shift towards numbers, instead of students, continues to grow by the day, particularly as administrators are forced to show accountability and growth in testing. There is no doubt that this move and shift has taken much creativity out of our classrooms. Mine, too.

“Making things and then make those things better is at the core of humanity.” – p. 11

My Response: Yep. We forget that the most precious times of our own learning are when we are forced to dive in and learn how to do something. We make mistakes. We break things along way. We curse. (or I do). And then, when something falls into place, there is that exhilaration of “I did it!” For me, this often has to do with plumbing and fixing something before calling in the expert. Maybe that’s just me, though. A fixed toilet is cause for major celebration in our household.

“The Maker ethos values learning through direct experience and the intellectual and social benefits that accrue from creating something shareable. Not only are there a plethora of high-tech materials available for childhood knowledge construction, but the growing popularity of making things has led to many ‘low tech’ innovations to spice up hands-on learning.” – p. 29

My Response: Yep. (Sorry. I took these quotes out because I agree with them). I like that low hurdles and low or not tech is part of the Maker Movement values. Access and equity are huge issues. And cost of supplies and technology often are a barrier to classroom Make projects.

“When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves. They begin to see themselves as learners who have good ideas and can transform their own ideas into reality.” – p.36

My Response: And I would argue that this is true for any educational experience and environment. Or I would hope. But direct instruction, drill and kill skill work and teaching to the test through the year suck all the fun out of learning for so many of our young people. They don’t trust themselves anymore, it seems. They are reluctant to take chances on something new. To fail (the authors don’t like that work) and iterate/innovate (their preferred terms) is part of learning. It’s not the end of the path. It’s the start of a new path.

“Projects create memories for students. Those memories contain the skills and content learned during that project’s development. The best teachers are those who inspire memories in their students, and engaging students in great projects is a powerful way to do so.” – p.65

My Response: Ye.. oh, never mind. I agree that we want learning to extend beyond the classroom walls. Memories are powerful reminders of learning.

“Making things provides a powerful context for learning. An authentic, or real-world audience, for one’s work is a mighty motivator. As teachers, we often promote the idea that process is more important than the end product, yet it is often the product itself that provides context and motivates students to learn. Knowledge is a consequence of experience, and open-ended creativity tools expand opportunities for such knowledge construction.” – p.66

 My Response: This idea of creating things for the world, for an audience, can be transformative in many ways. When we share our expertise, and when we teach others, we are learning even more deeper. That’s why so many teachers are such smart folks, right? And young people have a natural impulse to be part of the conversation with the world. (See the plethora of YouTube how-to videos).

“Re-using materials is consistent with kids’ passion for environmentalism and is an idea of the maker movement.” – p. 83

My Response: I had not really made that connections before. But this is so true. My students are passionate about the environment on many levels.

“Learning to program a computer is an act of intellectual mastery that empowers children and teaches them that they have control over a piece of powerful technology. Students quickly learn that they are the most important part of the computer program. The computer is really quite dumb unless you tell it what to do in a precise fashion the machine understands.” – p. 130

My Response: I suspect this is where we lose a lot of teachers. But we need to dive into these apps and programs that students can use, if only to get deeper into the technology and gain some agency over the devices of their lives. There are now a lot of simple ways to show programming skills and web-based skills. At the heart, though, it is us who are in charge, not the tools. (Although I know some might argue that point.) We control the power buttons.

“A funny thing happens when you make something, particularly something of  a technological nature. You are inspired to learn something else.” p. 162

My Response: That is so true. Success breeds curiosity which breeds innovation which breeds success.

“Teachers should not be treated as imbeciles incapable of growth or felons who can’t be trusted to show a YouTube video in class.” p. 199

My Response: Can we bulk email this to every school administrator in the country? Tape it up on the walls above the desks of the informational technology officers of every school district? Please?

What do you think?

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

Stories Untold: Short Story Titles by Sixth Graders

Here, at the start of the year with my sixth graders, we do a lot of brainstorming activities. This writing prompt has them generating a list of short story titles that they might pull from during the year for various writing-into-the-day activities. Plus, it is interesting to see what they come up with. Here are just a few from the list of 80 short story titles of stories not yet written. I put them in Prezi to give them a little “wow.”

Peace (in the story),
Kevin

When the Key Clicks: A Poem About Close Reading

close reading button

I’ve been joining Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts in a Blogathon as they explore Close Reading skills. The other day, I was writing with my students and began this poem, thinking of that moment when something “clicks” with a piece of text.

When the Key Clicks

Struggling
with this text -
I seek to break the code.
Contained, confused, confounded
by intent: I’m spent!
And more than a bit belligerent towards this writer
whose words spiral around meaning like
a swirling subterfuge of ideas just out of reach
when I’m not gleaming anything …
Until …
Until ..
Until somehow the key clicks.
Perhaps it was a word you said
or a question you asked
or another angle on which to lay my head upon this table.
For suddenly, I’m awake for the very first time, seeing
beneath the lines
between the words.
I unfold this story in all of its glory
as if I’d just turned a child’s simple drawing
upside down
inside out
only to discover a masterpiece hidden beneath
waiting
to be explored.

And the podcast:


 

Peace (in the light bulb moments),
Kevin

What It Looks Like When We Hack Chess

hack chess collage 2013
My sixth graders have been working in collaborative groups to hack the game of chess, with new pieces and new rules on how to play. I’ll share more later as part of a larger collaborative DS106 radio project but this collage nicely captures some of the work they are doing to invent new board games out of traditional ideas.

Peace (in the hack),
Kevin

 

The Shaping of a Song/ The Shaping of Connections

I write songs for my band, Duke Rushmore, every now and then. Some songs work for the band. Some don’t. Last Monday, I had about an hour to myself and pulled out the guitar, and wrote a new one. The next night, I was sharing it with the band, and last night, we worked on it for about 45 minutes (minus our lead singer.) It’s interesting how some songs come quick and work great, while others take forever to write and then fall apart. I’m not sure what leads a song to go one way or another (I suppose if I did, I’d be making my millions selling songs to Katy Perry).

Here’s where this particular song started out, with me doing a quick demo for the band before I forgot the melody. The words have been updated here and there over the last week as the song filters through my head.

And here is what we were doing last night (again, without a lead singer, so that’s me singing for now).

What is magical about this process is how an idea conceived alone, in a room with only a guitar (and sometimes a dog as an audience) becomes something else when you bring collaborators into the mix. Sure, the main ideas are still there. But the song is different now and one thing I have learned over the years is that you have to give up part of the song to make it work with a group. You have to be willing to let others take a piece of ownership. So, our discussions are very interesting, as someone suggests this different chord, or a stop/break here, or where to insert the solo sections, or what kind of melody line should run here.

I work hard to avoid saying, No, that’s now how I hear it. Instead, I try to hold true to the spirit of what I was writing and remain flexible with other parts.

This is just like collaborating with other teachers (see my point?) when we connect with others. We share the best of what we know and brainstorm with the best intent, and then we need to listen to what others are saying, think about how to find that balance between our own established opinions and those of others around us. Eventually, what I have found — in my band, in my writing, in my professional circles — is that the energy of the larger group often trumps the vision of the individual. Not always, but mostly. And we continue into this Connected Educator Month, that is something to hold on: we are in this together and I rely on you as much you may be learning from me.

Maybe we need to write a song about that …

Peace (in the connections),
Kevin